As a parent, I get the appeal of screen time in some spaces and places, like when moms and dads are stuck at home without a babysitter and need to get some work done.
Or if your child is running amok in a nice restaurant, I agree that your primary duty is to the other patrons who have paid good money to hire babysitters and enjoy an evening out in peace.
But not every occasion calls for children to be well-behaved and still. So, if you’d like to limit screens but are stuck on where to start, here are five places you can easily make screen time off-limits:
1. At a park
An outdoor green space has trees and grass and bugs and snow, making it the perfect place for kids to explore. If you’re not sure how to use these elements as the starting point for some screen-free play, check out how to bring adventure to your local park. And then learn why nature play is so good for kids.
2. In the car
This may sound tough to put into practice, but a car ride is a great way to have an uninterrupted conversation as a family. You can also play road trip games, read books, or even listen to audiobooks or podcasts. If you leave the devices at home, you remove the temptation.
3. In the bedroom
Protect this as a sleep zone. As a family, you can agree on a set time to put your devices away, and maybe even establish a location where they’ll be stored before bed each night.
4. During meals
A great alternative: encourage your kids to connect with their table mates. Here are a bunch of ideas to get the conversation rolling.
5. Any boring waiting situation where there are other bored waiting children
Sidelines of a baseball diamond? During a sibling’s gymnastics class? A waiting room? All of these are places where, instead of sitting quietly and politely and thumbing through an electronic device, your child could be running around with other children. Disappear with them and then reappear again. Get into some shenanigans. It’s part of a healthy childhood.
But wait. What about the outcome?
As I said, I’m a mom too, so I get how making screens off-limits in certain locations could create a bit of a pickle for you. After all, if you simply flat-out say “no” to screen-time access in all of these locations, one of two terrible things will eventually inevitably happen.
At one end of the spectrum, your child might edge into a level of unhappiness that you’ll find embarrassing or uncomfortable. Your child may begin to whine or cry or fling himself on the floor and pound his fists and feet with rage.
At the other end of the spectrum, your child might edge into a level of joy that you could find equally embarrassing or uncomfortable. Your child might begin climbing on things, running around, talking too loudly, and playing too rambunctiously.
Maybe you’re fine with kids airing grumpy grievances or exhibiting exhilarating playfulness at a park, but in a line-up? A waiting room?
Try taking a deep breath and looking at the situation with a new frame of reference.
The truth? Your kids are normal
Here’s the thing: moving around too much and making too much noise are normal childhood behaviours. It’s true that adults can often feel uncomfortable when kids are being kids, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that the discomfort of adults trumps the normal experience of childhood for kids.
There is no need to expect a child to sit quietly or stand still in all situations. You can let them play and be adventurous and daring. What does that look like? Well, here’s how you can start supporting them in their adventurous play.
Sometimes it’s okay to let children be seen and heard when they’re out in public. What do you think? How comfortable are you with removing screens and letting kids be rambunctious in certain spaces and places?